Archive for ‘Feminism’ Category

Provocation and victims of domestic violence

datePosted on 19:39, July 14th, 2009 by Anita

[I just wrote a rather long comment at The Hand Mirror about battered women and provocation, in response to people suggesting we need to maintain the partial defence of provocation to protect battered women. I am reproducing it here as it shows that the provocation does not help battered women, in fact it only protects their abusers]

The Law Commission has done a lot of work on this, and it appears that the provocation defence is not of value in “battered women syndrome” killings, so we lose no protection for women victims of domestic violence by repealing it.

Some Criminal Defences with Particular Reference to Battered Defendants

The Law Commission did a piece of work which focussed solely on defences for battered defendants completed in 2001 (Some Criminal Defences with Particular Reference to Battered Defendants – NZLC R 73. It shows that provocation is not an effective defence for battered women, and even that it has been successfully used by a perpetrator of domestic violence.

In R v Tepu a man successfully used provocation as a partial defence when he beaten his wife to death – her provoking act? going to the Police when he severely beat her

Partly in response to recommendations in that report the mandatory life sentence for murder was abolished in 2002, and judges have sentencing discretion for battered defendants.

The Partial Defence Of Provocation – NZLC R 98

From 2004 to 2007 the Law Commission did work specifically on provocation (The Partial Defence of Provocation) resulting in a recommendation for its repeal. As part of that they rechecked there would be no disadvantage for battered women and, in fact, did some handy stats.

Of the 81 homicide trials they looked at (2001 to 2005, Auckland and Wellington) in 15 provocation was used as a defence. In only one of those was provocation used as a defence by a woman. In that case, while the killer had experienced domestic violence, she killed her husband because he said he was leaving her. I won’t copy the description here (see p103 of report if you really want to), but it’s exactly the kind of killing-someone-because-they-say-they’re-leaving that we shouldn’t allow to be called manslaughter.


So there were go, the Law Commission has worked really hard on the issue, and provocation is not helping battered women who kill to protect themselves.

From this morning’s DomPost

Nineteen young women have been sexually assaulted after partying in Wellington’s central city this year, with most too drunk to remember what happened.

Police say the number of attacks on drunk young women is growing. “They are binge-drinking, make poor choices and can’t keep themselves safe,” Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Borrell said. “That’s a worry and that’s the preventable part of it.”

I won’t even try to compete with Queen of Thorns ability to express (out)rage, so this is after several deep breaths.

Is Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Borrell seriously intending to say that women are responsible when someone sexually assaults them? And that addressing rapists’ behaviour is not the way to prevent rape?

To be fair to him, he does go on to say that

“It’s up to friends of victims and potential offenders to do something about it. In my view, if something does happen, all of us have failed that person.”

So apparently it’s not entirely the young victim’s fault, it’s also the responsibility of her friends and (yay) the rapist’s friends, oh and pretty much everyone except the rapist (whose behaviour is apparently unpreventable).

I’ll leave the final words to Helen Sullivan, Wellington Sexual Abuse Help Foundation general manager, who says what the Police should have

“Why should the whole responsibility for a situation be put on women? The bottom line is we should be able to walk down the street or do anything without the threat of sexual violence.”

What if it were Worth?

datePosted on 12:57, July 10th, 2009 by Lew

The current spotlight on the provocation defence invites consideration of some interesting counterfactuals which dwell upon the gender, sexuality and power relationships in play.

Such as, would either (any?) of the women who alleged sexual harassment by Richard Worth have gotten away with pleading manslaughter if they’d killed him in response to his sexual advances?

L

Clayton Weatherston put a knife in his bag, went to his ex-girlfriend’s house and stabbed her to death. He admits to all of that but he is pleading not guilty to murder, and s169 of the Crimes Act means he may only be found guilty of manslaughter. s169 says that blaming her is a defence, it says that if she provoked him and he killed her it is not murder.

It sounds far fetched, but it’s happened many times before. In 2006 Tevita Noa was found not guilty of murder; he had beaten his wife to death with a cricket bat after finding explicit photos on her cell phone. Amsheen Arif Ali stabbed Colin Hart five times, only manslaughter because Hart had made sexual advances toward him. Phillip Edwards bashed David McNee in the face 40 times, stole his car and possessions and boasted about it afterwards, only manslaughter because McNee, paying Edwards for sex, had touched Edwards’ anus.

s169 enshrines blaming the victim in law – it says that in New Zealand a man may beat a woman or a gay man to death as long as it’s their fault, her fault for wanting to leave, his fault for being gay.

In 2007 the Law Commission recommended the repeal of the section and … nothing.

Earlier this year Simon Power’s office told me

I expect to consider these proposals later this year, and will assess, at that stage, how any reforms of this nature might fall within the Government’s current legislative priorities.

But … nothing.

So, if you want to live in a country which doesn’t enshrine victim blaming in law, write to Simon Power and ask him to repeal s169 of the Crimes Act, ask him to treat the murder of wives, gay men and ex-girlfriends as murder.

[Many thanks to Idiot/Savant who has kept this issue on the agenda]

Balance of scrutiny

datePosted on 10:48, June 5th, 2009 by Lew

One of the major issues in this Richard Worth affair, like the Tony Veitch affair, is the degree of scrutiny to which the various parties are being subjected, and the degree to which their assertions are accepted without scrutiny.

Richard Worth’s motives, alleged actions and responsibility generally have not been subjected to significant public scrutiny or discussion (although his reputation has). The victim’s motives, supposed actions and responsibility for her position as a victim have been subject to a much higher degree of investigation; that is, expected to withstand closer scrutiny in order to be considered credible, as have those of her political agent Phil Goff. In most cases this has not been subtle, although some has.

I know, who’d have thunk it. Sexual harrassment victim held to account more strongly than alleged harrasser, sky blue and water wet. But this case, where the differentials in power and standard of acceptable conduct between alleged harasser and alleged victim could not be more stark, illustrates more than most why it’s arse-backwards.

But I think we are seeing a change in the public attitude toward this sort of thing. Although Louise Nicholas, Kristin Dunne-Powell and the anonymous victim here are still subjected to undue scrutiny and speculation, the media have in each case gradually begun to treat the incidents more seriously. As John Key is discovering, it is no longer politically viable to simply ignore this sort of thing and hope it goes away.

L

Key’s real attitude to women is showing

datePosted on 21:31, June 4th, 2009 by Anita

He did such a good job during the campaign, but the mask is slipping.

In what world is it reasonable to investigate an allegation of serious sexual harassment by speaking only to the person said to have done the harassing and, on the basis alone, deciding that it didn’t happen and saying publicly that you “accepted [his] version of events“?

In what world is it reasonable to say that if you’re given evidence of sexual harassment you’ll give it straight to the media?

In John Key’s world apparently: where the old boys’ club is strong and a leader sides with his men no matter what. Well at least until the political math tells him otherwise.

In case anyone’s missing the nuance: Key has told the media he believes the woman in question is a liar and has threatened to publicly humiliate her if she doesn’t back down. All without even trying to talk to her, all on the word of his good old mate Richard Worth whose unpleasant track record Key is well aware of. Nice eh?

In the United States on Sunday George Tiller, a doctor, was shot and killed as he attended church. Tiller, who ran one of only three remaining clinics providing late term abortions in the US, had been shot in 1993, his name has been on anti-abortion assassination lists and his clinic was bombed in 1985.

In New Zealand we have never had an abortion doctor killed, but we have had doctors, nurses and clinic staff threatened, attacked and harassed. I pray that no further anti-abortion violence comes to New Zealand, and at the same time I pray that we will progress the issue to give women the right to control their own bodies and that we will find a social consensus for a woman’s right to choose.

But right now the cost seems very high, and all I can do is pray for the safety of everyone ensuring women continue to have access to the limited choices they are given. George Tiller was a great man whose personal actions gave more to women than I could ever hope to.

I try to not end too many posts with lyrics, but today I can’t help posting a section of Ani DiFranco’s Hello Birmingham. With an echo of Pablo’s recent posts, she is talking, at least in part, of the powerlessness of electors to make the changes that matter.

           now i’ve drawn closed the curtain 
in this little booth where the truth has no place 
to stand 
and i am feeling oh so powerless 
in this stupid booth with this useless 
little lever in my hand 
and outside, my city is bracing 
for the next killing thing 
standing by the bridge and praying 
for the next doctor 
martin 
luther 
king 
  

it was just one shot 
through the kitchen window 
it was just one or two miles from here 
if you fly like a crow 
a bullet came to visit a doctor 
in his one safe place 
a bullet insuring the right to life 
whizzed past his kid and his wife 
and knocked his glasses 
right off of his face 

and the blood poured off the pulpit 
the blood poured down the picket line 
yeah, the hatred was immediate 
and the vengance was devine 
so they went and stuffed god 
down the barrel of a gun 
and after him 
they stuffed his only son

In which I support Christine Rankin

datePosted on 19:56, May 18th, 2009 by Anita

Before I start, over here I criticise her appointment as a Families Commissioner. I still believe that she is the wrong person at a time when a consensus needs to be built around the fundamentals of family in New Zealand. 

Over the last few days I have become more and more revolted by the media’s intrusion into Christine Rankin’s person life, and the analysis and commentary that has accompanied it. I’ve tried to write this post a couple of times, and I’ve finally unpacked the three issues that I find so offensive.

Stereotyping and dismissing women

75% of the commentary has focussed on Rankin’s sexuality – her skirt length, her earrings, the response of men, her relationships (frame as a seductress) – as if a woman’s only power is her sexuality. She was a senior public servant, she has run a successful lobby organisation; she is clearly an effective political and administrative operator who uses her intellect and eloquence to gain power.

Why oh why is it acceptable to reduce a woman’s power to her sexuality? As if women were no more than breasts and a vulva and all our power comes from our ability to seduce and trap men.

The growing culture of personal attacks

Over the last few years there have been more and more personal attacks masquerading as commentary. Between the reasonable accusations of divisiveness and standing in opposition to government policy, there have been loads of unjustifiable personal attacks on Rankin.

When did it become acceptable for politicians and their allies to use personal attacks? When did the media start running them with glee rather than challenging the ethics and motives of the attacks? When did the Left start to stoop that low?

Unjustifiable intrusion into personal lives disguised as political analysis 

Rankin’s marriages and relationships have absolutely no relevance to her role as a Families Commissioner. It is not the marriage-for-life commission, it’s not the the perfectly-respectable commission, it’s the families commission which is intended to look after New Zealand families in all their shapes and sizes. Rankin’s family is not the same shape as mine, but that is not newsworthy or politically significant.

What justifies the increasingly prurient intrusion into the lives of the famous (and not so famous)? Are we really a country of judgemental curtain twitchers whose only engagement with our communities is condemnatory gossip, rumour and innuendo?

To borrow from The Sprout for a moment

One of these things is not like the other…

  • Racist
  • Dishonest
  • Stupid
  • Shrill

When Lee is described as any of the first three it is a comment on her behaviour. When people say “shrill” of someone they are simply attacking their gender: they are saying “she sounds like a woman” and semaphoring “that is unacceptable”. Apparently they think MPs shouldn’t sound like women.

Over the last few weeks and days more and more lefties are using “shrill” to describe Lee in blogs posts and comments. What do you mean? Would it be an adjective you would use about a male candidate? Why is it negative? And, more importantly, why is a bad thing to sound like a woman?

P.S. You could consider whether writing “looks slitty eyed” would be acceptable in place of “sounds shrill”

Rational responses to trauma

datePosted on 22:56, May 14th, 2009 by Lew

The Sharks Sex Saga continues. Tania Boyd, the victim’s former workmate says the victim bragged about “bedding” players, and goes on:

It was definitely consensual, absolutely.
She is saying she is still traumatised etcetera, well she wasn’t for five days, or four days at least, after that affair.
I can’t work out what’s happened. Does it take five days for it to sink in?

Tania Boyd, having not been there, can’t know whether consent was given – only if Clare – the victim – implied (to her, after the fact) that consent was given. She can’t know the truth of the situation since the victim may well have implied to her that there was consent when there wasn’t. The question of consent is a complicated one, as well – Clare might well have agreed to some sort of sexual contact, but at each escalation consent needed to be renewed, and according to her it wasn’t. There’s a good discussion of this involving our Anita at The Hand Mirror.

Ms Boyd has begged the question of consent by assuming that a woman having been raped by a lot of powerful, famous men would act in a way which someone who hadn’t had such an experience would consider rational – that is, by immediately calling a halt, or immediately reporting the events, or whatever. But trauma, especially sexual trauma, especially when it involves power imbalance, is a complicated thing, and it does screwy things to one’s sense of reason. Incidents like this can have many responses which might seem rational to the traumatised person at the time but utterly irrational to others. Bragging about the event could be seen as a form of post-purchase rationalisation; that is, Clare may have thought it started off as a good experience and perhaps even initiated it, and tried to mask the fact that it turned nasty (to herself as much as anyone) by bragging about the event. This could also be seen as a call for attention; an invitation to workmates, friends or family to offer support. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing.

As to the second statement, if Clare genuinely is traumatised now, then it follows that she was traumatised in the initial four days, it just wasn’t apparent to Tania Boyd, which isn’t really surprising at all given that her response was not one of support but of disgust. Not that that wasn’t a reasonable response – I have no idea how close these people were or what the nature of the workplace was, and bragging about one’s sexual exploits is pretty polarising.

As to the third statement, the answer to Ms Boyd’s question is – yes, these things do take time to sink in. According to a family member with extensive professional experience in this field, the median period of time between incidence and reporting of rape is eighteen and three-quarter years; viewed in this light four days seems very rapid indeed.

This story is being deployed without qualification in apologia for the men in this incident, whereas articles advocating Clare’s perspective are strongly hedged so as to make clear that the facts of the case haven’t really been established. The headline goes beyond euphemistically describing the events as `group sex’ and calls it a `romp’, for goodness’ sakes.

L

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